Parents Interpret for their Kids

family01Any time you turn on the news, something bad has happened. The big news right now is the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and it is terrible to watch and think about. This morning I also saw the story of the mudslides in Washington and the difficulty the search and rescue teams are having in locating survivors. Those are only two of the sad stories the news carried just today.

This morning I listened to a conversation between Ken Coleman and John Piper. The conversation turned to parenting, including raising adopted kids as both gentlemen have adopted children into their family. Ken then presented the question to John Piper about how to communicate with our kids about the bad things that continue to happen in the world. There are so many ways our kids can hear about tragic events and Ken Coleman asked Piper how do we deal with that. I thought John Piper’s answer was great: “We have the golden opportunity to take the initiative, if they hear it from the news on TV or the iPad, to get the interpretation from mom and dad.” He went on to say that we won’t have all the answers, but we can help our kids interpret the evil in the world and what God has to say about it.

Now that my wife and I have a 6-month old in the house, we are kind of beginning the parenting process all over again. It was a good reminder to me that whatever the future brings and whatever evil takes place in the world, we can help our son interpret it and point him to a loving Heavenly Father who is bigger than any of the evil we experience.

Let Hope In – review

Let Hope InSometimes you read a book because you’ve read the author’s previous writings and you like what he/she offers. I picked up Let Hope In based on the recommendation of someone I know and trust. He spoke highly of the author, Pete Wilson, so I thought I would give his book a read. It was a good recommendation.

In Let Hope In Pete Wilson offers four choices people can make that have the potential to be life changing. In the opening chapter, Wilson makes this statement that provides the foundation for the rest of his book: “I’m learning that everyone needs healing. Everyone has been hurt. Some of us have been hurt worse than others, but no one escapes this life without some emotional bruising along the way. And if we haven’t dealt with the hurt from past, it will continue to impact everything we touch.”

Whatever our past looks like, everyone has some type of pain or regret and Wilson offers some insight and encouragement in how to let God bring hope in and help us move past our past. Wilson uses both scripture and stories from people he has encountered to provide practical ways to allow hope into our past experiences and regrets.

One chapter that stood out to me addressed the topic of shame. I appreciated how Wilson addressed the issue of shame. He expressed it this way: Shame is not like guilt. Guilt says, ‘I did something wrong,’ while shame says ‘I am wrong.’…Shame says you are not normal” I thought how he both defined and then addressed the issue was helpful and gave a new perspective on the shame our past can bring.

Let Hope In is a practical resource for anyone who struggles with a difficult past or who desires to walk alongside others working through past issues. I found myself highlighting phrases along the way that were helpful. All of us have a past. How we deal with that past makes the difference.

(I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® <http://BookSneeze.com&gt; book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

The Rippling Effect of Influence

churchYesterday we combined with another church in our community for our Sunday morning worship service. We are a predominantly white church and they are an African-American church and we worshiped together with a third church joining us about a year ago. For our service yesterday, some of their praise team members joined us for the music portion. Since our churches have different styles of music, they had to learn the songs “our way.” One of the songs was brand new to them (or at least most of them) and they had less than a week to feel comfortable with it. They were great!

A large portion of the service was given to testimonies and we had several individuals share. A recurring theme was how the influence of our church (which has been around for over 50 years) made a difference in the lives of people.

Here are a few examples:

– one gentleman who shared is in leadership in another church in Wilmington. He came to faith sometime after his teen years. He said some of the early seeds of faith were planted in him at the High School Prayer Breakfast our church offered when he was a student.

– another testimony was given by a man who recently moved back to Wilmington and has found a place of acceptance and support in our men’s group called “The Cave.” During his testimony he shared how he remembered coming to church here as a young boy. Now he is back and his kids are involved in our children’s ministry.

– one of our elementary aged boys was baptized near the beginning of the service. He was baptized by his grandfather who is a retired Baptist preacher who is serving as an interim minister at a local church. He meets with our pastor and several other pastors for prayer each Wednesday. He said he came to Wilmington to retire, but instead found revival. The father of the boy who was baptized grew up here at the church and has several family members who are still a part of our church family. He and his wife also serve in our student and young adult ministry.

I was impressed with the idea of how God has used this particular church family to influence so many individuals and families. While our church is far from perfect (just like any other church you would visit), God has used her to be a place of growth and life change for many individuals. Sometimes it is good to stop and celebrate who God is, what He has done and how He uses people to accomplish His purposes.

No Greater Name

Apple_Podcast_logo-642x642While driving home yesterday, I was listening to an interview with Israel Houghton. He was talking about his new projects, being a worship leader and also moving into the production side of things.

While talking about leading worship, he spoke about the difference between the “get to” and the “got to” of leading worship. When he first started as a worship leader, he said he was excited that he would “get to” lead worship. As time went on and he lead on a more regular basis, he said he “got to” lead worship – like it was another task he needed to do. One day he recognized the shift that took place and that he needed to stay in the “get to” aspect of leading worship.

In the interview he made a great statement that was a good reminder to me. He said as a worship leader, he gets to lead people to lift up and sing about the great name of Jesus. Whatever you can name in your life that is a struggle or difficulty or trial, we can name a name that is greater than that.

It was a good reminder that God is greater than whatever we face. It is easy to become focused on our circumstances and not on the name that is greater than anything we face. I need that reminder. Hope it encourages you, too.

9 Years Ago

NineI got a text from my son today reminding me of an anniversary. It’s one that we remember, but don’t really celebrate in the way you might celebrate a wedding anniversary or a birthday. Nine years ago this month Joe had a stroke which affected the right side of his body. When you look at him now, you wouldn’t really believe it. In fact, as I think back to that event, it seems a bit surreal.

We were at our junior high camp out and he wasn’t acting himself. We ended up at the hospital, came home, then went back to hospital. He ended up at Dayton Children’s Hospital, but made a relatively quick recovery. We found out over time how many people were praying for Joe during this time and know those prayers made a huge difference.

A lot has transpired in the past nine years and as always we’ve hit a few bumps in the road. God continues to bring good out of bad situations. Looking back, the stroke seems like a lifetime ago. I’m looking forward to the future God has for Joe and what He will continue to do with him.

Undaunted

undauntedA few months ago I picked up the Kindle version of Christine Caine’s book Undaunted when it was on sale for around $2. I’ve heard her speak a couple of times (via video), but had not read anything she wrote. I had finished reading another book and wasn’t sure what to read next. I was flipping through my library on my Kindle and realized I had Undaunted. I’m so glad I read it.

Christine Caine is a powerful, passionate speaker and that voice carries over into her writing. In Undaunted she shares some of her own personal challenges, revealing some struggles she had in her past and how that carried over into her life as a speaker, wife and mother. (If you haven’t read the book yet, I don’t want to take away from her story). I appreciate her transparency in sharing her story and what lessons God taught her through them.

I started reading the book about a week before the week of camp I was going to lead. Much of what she shared in her book fit into our theme for the week. I shared part of her story during our first campfire time where we set up the theme for the week.

All of us have different struggles. Even if our difficulties are different from what Christine Caine shares in her book, how she responded to them will be an encouragement to you. God wants to use us despite our flaws and Undaunted clearly shares that message.

God the Great Story Weaver

Logo-Quill-and-InkOver the past couple of months God has been unfolding a story that has been quite unexpected. Through a series of connections – starting at the church where my wife grew up, to someone she knew briefly in college, to a re-connection with that friend over Facebook, along with a series of other seemingly random connections – God has been putting together a somewhat unlikely scenario. We are still waiting for details to play out, so I don’t want to project how the last chapters are going to unfold. But it is amazing to look back at how God is putting various pieces together and the timing in relation to those pieces and events.

As my wife and I were talking this past weekend, she commented on how God is truly the Great Story Weaver. Whether it be the timing of certain events or simply responding to a request that at the time didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, we are surprised how God orchestrates and weaves together a series of events and conversations into something unforeseen.

We don’t know how the story will continue to go, but we are excited to share it with others in the months to come. We have to realize that we are a part of the chapters being written and can’t see the end of the story. Even when we think we are at the end of a story, God is still writing. He is the Great Story Weaver.

Adopted For Life

Adopted_For_LifeSome good friends of ours who have adopted recommended this book, so my wife and I snagged the Nook book. It was well worth it. Adopted For Life was written to those who have adopted, to those who are considering adoption, to those who know someone who had adopted and even to those who aren’t thinking about adoption, but should be.

That last category – those who aren’t thinking about adoption, but should be – is one of the main points of the book. The author, Russell Moore, contends that adoption is a picture of what God does for us through Jesus. God takes people who are not part of His family, but brings them in as sons and daughters. Even though we don’t belong to Him because of our sin and rebellion, God gives us a new name as His children. Adoption in this life reflects what God has done for us.

The author and his wife have adopted two Russian boys into their family after a struggle with infertility. They have also welcomed two biological children into their home and he writes about that experience and the questions that they receive as a result of the unique make up of their family.

Moore covers a variety of issues that relate to adoption. He speaks to those who have struggled with infertility and to those who have biological children. He talks about the paperwork involved, offers advice on finding an adoption agency and speaks to the cost of adoption. He also provides insights to some of the unique struggles adoptive parents and adopted children face.

It is clear through this writing that Moore encourages to the church at large to be involved in adoption, whether through encouraging adoptive families, providing funds and challenging individuals to consider becoming adoptive parents. Adopted For Life is a good read and presents a compelling picture of it looks like to adopt.

The Ultimate Covenant Keeper

sunandmoonFor the past week or so, I’ve been reading through the book of Jeremiah. He was a prophet of God that was given a pretty difficult task. The nation of Israel had continually disobeyed God and repeatedly turned away from Him to the point He was ready to punish them. It’s kind of like the child who continues to try your patience until you have no choice but to enact some form of discipline. Jeremiah is given the unenviable task of being the messenger of the bad news – God’s judgement is coming.

What is interesting in the pages of Jeremiah is the glimmer of hope that God continues to provide for His people. He made a covenant with David that He was going to keep and I love the way it is expressed in Jeremiah 33:19-22:

19 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 20 “This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, 21 then my covenant with David my servant — and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me —can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne. 22 I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars in the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore.’ ”

Isn’t that great imagery? If you can break the cycle of day turning to night and night turning to day, then God will break His covenant with David. You can count on God keeping His promise just like you count on the sun rising and setting each day. He will keep His promises, even when we break ours. God is the Ultimate Covenant Keeper.

Where Is Your Kingdom?

casteThis month in our High School class, we’ve been talking about the Kingdom of God and what Jesus meant by what He said about the Kingdom. One of the first questions we needed to answer is “What is your kingdom?” While we don’t live in a monarchy or look to someone who wears a crown, we all have our kingdoms – places where we exert control or influence. Our kingdom could be our set of friends on Facebook or our followers on Twitter. We determine who makes the list. Our kingdom could be our real-life relationships. All our decisions hinge on what our friends think or say. Our kingdom could be our job, our bank account, our hobbies…pretty much any part of our life where we maintain control. Once we established what our kingdom is, we had to think about what we do when our kingdom bumps into the kingdom of God. What happens when what we want doesn’t match up with what God wants for us.

One of the first verses we looked at was Matthew 6:10, a portion of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” The writers of the material we are using made an interesting point about this verse. They point out that Jesus is using a parallel statement here. Your Kingdom come = Your Will being done. If it really is God’s kingdom, then He is in control. He has the final word on what is done.

Where we struggle with the idea of kingdom is when we aren’t willing to submit our own personal kingdom (or kingdoms) to God’s Kingdom. Rather than His will being done, our will is done. I maintain control, I make the decisions, I determine the direction I go.

It’s an interesting question to wrestle with: “Where is your kingdom?” What area or realms of your lives to do you seek to maintain the control? Then, what does it look like for me to live in God’s Kingdom?